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CNN Presents

CNN Presents: Acting Out - The Mel Gibson Story

Aired May 22, 2011 - 20:00   ET



BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For three decades, Mel Gibson has defined the world superstar.


LEAH ROZEN, COLUMNIST, THEWRAP.COM: He got out of the gate fast. I mean, you have a good looking guy who could act.

ANDERSON: An actor and Academy Award winning director and producer whose films have taken in billions at the box office.

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I feel like a hundred bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mel Gibson is probably the most complicated, infuriating, talented star that Hollywood has ever produced.

ANDERSON: From "Mad Max" --

GIBSON: Don't get mad at me.

ANDERSON: -- to "Maverick" --

GIBSON: Do you really want to jump? Do you want to?

ANDERSON: -- "Lethal Weapon" -- to "Braveheart."

He was "What Women Want" and what men want to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're like a genius, you know that?

GIBSON: Well, can I tell you, buddy, I'm blessed.

ANDERSON (on camera): But the audience' love affair with Mel Gibson would take a turn for the worse on this highway. Caught driving drunk, Gibson mouthed off to police. It was a dark Mel moments now upstaged by his profanity-laced telephone rant.


GIBSON: You look like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on heat and if you get raped by a pack of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), it will be your fault. All right? Because you provoked it.

(END AUDIO CLIP) ANDERSON (voice-over): Angry slurs at his baby's momma, Oksana. But those leaked rants became the least of Gibson's concerns as the actor faced possible domestic violence charges stemming from an altercation with Oksana early last year. A drastic departure from the film star once known best as a family man and a person of passionate faith.

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, INSIDE EDITION: People are wondering, was the Mel we knew and loved, was that really Mel Gibson? Or is this Mel Gibson?

ANDERSON: Mel Gibson first made noise on January 3rd, 1956. His birth announcement on the local paper reads, "A son to Mr. And Mrs. Hutton Gibson of Verplanck. That's this small river town in Upstate New York where the family lived for a few years in this modest home. It still stands just down the road from the Catholic congregation of St. Patrick where Mel's father sang in the choir. Gibson was the sixth child in a brood of 11.

LAWRENCE GROBEL, WRITER: His older brothers and sisters, they really didn't like each other and they would throw things at each other --

ANDERSON: Writer Lawrence Grobel got a glimpse of Gibson's very strict upbringing in an interview with the actor.

GROBEL: One day, the father got so fed up that he grabbed the two of them and he knocked their heads together.

ANDERSON (on camera): They're lucky they didn't have to go to the hospital.

GROBEL: Exactly. But Mel believes that this is -- that his father had wisdom in doing this to his kids.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Mel's father Hutton ruled the roost. A conservative Catholic, he once considered priesthood. Instead, he worked the railroad until 1964 when a bad accident put him out of work and out of a paycheck.

GROBEL: So, while he's out, his father, he thought on going on game shows. He went on "Jeopardy!"

ANDERSON: Hutton would go undefeated and later be invited back for the show's tournament of champions. The winnings, along with $145,000 settlement with New York Central Railroad, allowed the family to leave America for Australia, in part so Mel's brother could escape the Vietnam draft.

GROBEL: Although his father was in World War II and even got a Purple Heart, he was very much against the Vietnam War. And he said, "My sons aren't going to go."

ANDERSON: But 12-year-old Mel would have to fight his own battle in school.

GROBEL: He's a yank because the American accent. And the kids, you know, tease him and they don't really accept him so easily. ANDERSON: One of Gibson's coping mechanisms was humor.

GROBEL: He sort of clowns around a lot, you know? And his father tells him, you know, the one thing you'll never do, they don't pay a clown.

ANDERSON: Mel would prove his father wrong with some unsolicited help from his sister. Without his knowledge, she filled out an application for him to attend Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art where an addiction to acting was born.

GIBSON: Yes, there was a moment where it clicked. It wasn't on stage. It was during the middle of an exercise. It was like being drunk or high.

ANDERSON: By the page of 20, Gibson had signed on to play the role of a surfer in his first flick, "Summer City."

GIBSON: I might sound stupid but more a way of life, don't you think?

ANDERSON: On screen, Mel's acting ability easily surpassed his surfing skills.

PHIL AVALON, PRODUCER: Hopeless. Absolutely hopeless.

ANDERSON: Phil Avalon wrote and produced the movie.

AVALON: Uncoordinated. We had a double for him, but because he's a good actor, when it came to him being a surfer, you wouldn't know that he wasn't.

ANDERSON: Clearly, Mel was not yet a star, making just $400 for a month of filming.

Just 66 grand to make the movie, the cast and crew slept on mattresses in a hall also used for weddings. For Gibson, it was an invitation to trouble.

AVALON: Mel and his sidekick Steve Bisley were over this wedding going on for too long, so they went to the windows and gave them the moons, which then, you know, heated up the big guys in the -- at the wedding and they chased them off down the road.

ANDERSON: Gibson would soon pay for his bad boy behavior, getting into a bar brawl just before an audition.

GROBEL: He comes out of it and his eye's falling out, he's bleeding, you know, he's all cut up. And he said, "I'm never going to let that happen again. If I ever get a chance to punch a guy, I'm going to make sure I punch him enough."

ANDERSON: Next, blockbuster films and another bloody bar fight.

GROBEL: Hopkins saw Mel's behavior and said, he's going to have to shape up or he could number a lot of trouble.




ANDERSON (voice-over): In 1979, 23-year-old Mel Gibson landed the lead in an Australian science fiction film "Mad Max."

JESS CAGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It was low budget. It was really fun. It was great story telling.

And at the center of it was this new guy, Mel Gibson, who was tough and beautiful and captivating.

GIBSON: Look, any longer out on that road and -- you know, a terminal crazy.

ANDERSON: The film was not a huge box office hit. However, the sequel, "The Road Warrior," was.

GIBSON: You want to get out of here? You talk to me.

LEAH ROZEN, COLUMNIST, THEWRAP.COM: After the second "Mad Max" really hits, he's picked up by Hollywood. He does a film called, "The Year of Living Dangerously." He's got international financing and Sigourney Weaver is his co-star.

GIBSON: You're a spook, aren't you?

SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS: If I were, I'd hardly tell you, would I?

ANDERSON: "The Year of Living Dangerously" won Mel Gibson more attention from Hollywood and from women around the world. He landed on the cover of "Playgirl" magazine and then "People" magazine.

ROZEN: "People" magazine was doing a cover story on Mel Gibson and they just sort of suddenly said, wait a minute, let's bill it, "Sexiest Man Alive." And a franchise was born.

GIBSON: The sexiest man alive, hey. Well, it's true, of course. And I was just very relieved to read that I wasn't the sexiest man dead. I don't know. That's ridiculous notion, isn't it? I mean, is there such a thing?

ANDERSON: He may have been sexy, he but he wasn't available. Before success and fame would find him, Mel Gibson had married Robyn Moore and started a family.

(on camera): A husband, a father and leading man good looks, Mel Gibson was admired and adored by his many fans. But in Hollywood, by the mid-1980s, Gibson was also becoming known as "Mad Mel," with a growing reputation for drinking and getting into trouble.

ANTHONY HOPKINS, ACTOR: Anything wrong, sir?

ANDERSON (voice-over): Like what happened during the filming of "The Bounty."

HOPKINS: Stop that noise!

ANDERSON (on camera): What kind of craziness was he into and how did it impact filming?

GROBEL: Well, they're out there in French Polynesia. You know, they have time off, you know, between shoots. So, he goes in. They find some bar. And he gets in -- a couple of guys come in and he's in a bar room brawl.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Gibson told journalist Lawrence Grobel about the fight and its aftereffect.

GROBEL: When he comes back to the set and half his face is beaten up. And they had to shoot him. And he said, you got to shoot from this side the whole week or a few days until I heal.

HOPKINS: I think your brain has been overheated, sir, and your body overindulged in sexual excess.

ANDERSON: "The Bounty" cast included Anthony Hopkins, who expressed concern.

HOPKINS: No more mixing with (INAUDIBLE) of this island.

GROBEL: Hopkins saw Mel's behavior and said, he's going to have to shape up or he could number a lot of trouble.

ANDERSON: The very next year, Gibson was arrested for drunk driving while filming "Mrs. Soffel" in Toronto.

(on camera): That was a crazy story and he said it was humiliating for him.

GROBEL: He got roaring drunk one night, you know, and the police throw him in the backseat of the car. He starts kicking at the windows, you know, and he's screaming and cursing. And then when they found out it's Mel Gibson, it's like, can we have your autograph? And drive you back home. They didn't -- so, he didn't spend the night in jail.

CAGLE: As his career took off, Mel continued to battle alcoholism, which he's spoke very openly about. While he has not spoken in a lot of detail about when he was in recovery and when he was out of recovery and when he was drinking, when he was not, he has clearly gone back and forth a lot. But it didn't stop people from wanting to work with him. People actually enjoyed working with him.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Gibson declined our request for an interview. In 1985, after making four films in little more than a year, Gibson realized he needed a break.

GIBSON: I wasn't channeling the energy properly. There was too much in the race and I didn't have enough petro but I was going for the finish line anyway. And I think you just got to make a pit stop every now and then. Don't you love these crappy analogies?


GIBSON: You want to see crazy? Now that's a real badge. I'm a real cop.

ANDERSON: After a year off in Australia, Gibson returned to Hollywood with a bang -- in the movie "Lethal Weapon."

CAGLE: Even though Mel was very serious about his acting, he never shied away from doing the action roles. He was very good at it. I think he enjoyed being the, you know, tough, macho guy on screen.

ROZEN: The action roles suit him because he's a guy who seems like he could explode and that's what he does in films.

GIBSON: Do you really want to jump? Do you want to?

ANDERSON: "Lethal Weapon" became the biggest hit of Mel Gibson's young career. He was now a full-fledged star.

GIBSON: There's no way to prepare for it. In the beginning it's novel. But it's slightly uncomfortable.

ANDERSON: In 1989, "Lethal Weapon 2" became an even bigger hit than the original.

GIBSON: Can't you go any faster?

ANDERSON: There was a third --

GIBSON: Step on it, there he is.

ANDERSON: Then a fourth.

GIBSON: Who's this joker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Spokesman for the NRA.

ANDERSON: The series eventually took in nearly $1 billion worldwide.

GIBSON: I try to make it fun. If it's not fun to me, it's just not worth it. One has to enjoy one's craft.

ANDERSON (on camera): Was that his reputation back then, fun, zany?

GROBEL: I think he -- yes, but he also had a reputation of having a temper. Richard Donner, "Lethal Weapon "director, talked about that. There was an undercurrent in Mel that could be very dangerous, very volatile.

ANDERSON: And he admitted to you, he gets pretty dark, pretty bleak sometimes.

GROBEL: Yes, he does.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Next, Mel, "Playboy" and some choice four- letter words.

GROBEL: He wasn't politically correct about -- in his language and he said what he thought.

ANDERSON: And later, Gibson's passion ignites controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This film is dangerous for Jews all over the world.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Mel Gibson!

ANDERSON (voice-over): By the early 1990s, Mel Gibson was Hollywood royalty and made the surprising decision to play royalty.

GIBSON: To be or not to be, that is the question

ANDERSON: Prince Hamlet. GIBSON: A king of --

It's all there, sex, violence and passion and love and hate.

I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

We just want to make it accessible to an audience.

CAGLE: And if anybody could get butts in the seat to go see "Hamlet," it was probably Mel Gibson.

ANDERSON: "Hamlet" was produced by Gibson's new company, Icon Productions.

CAGLE: A lot of movie stars don't take control of their career in the incredibly smart, strategic way that Mel did.

ANDERSON: Control that included going behind the camera.

GIBSON: Action, Nick.

ANDERSON: Gibson made his directorial debut in "The Man Without a Face," in which he also starred.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Just tell me you didn't. I'll believe you.

GIBSON: No, no, sir. I didn't spend all summer so you could cheat on this question.

It's the most fulfilling way of expressing yourself. One can do it in the acting profession, of course, but this is even more so because you have to conceive of a whole story in a way to tell it and a way to show it, you know, with image, with film. Cut. Not bad.

GROBEL: When he first started directing, he went to Clint Eastwood and said, how do you do this? He says, you know a lot more than you think you do, just from having acted all this time.

ANDERSON: Journalist Lawrence Grobel spent eight hours interviewing Mel Gibson for a "Playboy" magazine feature. The article was published in July 1995, the summer of "Braveheart."


ANDERSON (on camera): What did you tell you about what drew him to that film?

GROBEL: Mel said it was the script. When he read that script, he said he read it in one sitting, two hours. That's the way you can tell with the script, that you don't stop reading it. You know, you're reading something. And he just felt the power of it.

GIBSON: OK. Good, cross out again and come back in.

It was such a wonderful script that it just haunted my mind and I began to do something with the script that I've never done before, and that is the images began to play out almost shot for shot, you know, in my head.

They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!

ANDERSON: Gibson produced, directed and starred in this sprawling historical epic.

Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, the film won five, including Best Picture and Best Director.

GIBSON: I feel like, you know, that the (INAUDIBLE), you know -- that's my wildest expectations come true for this evening.

ANDERSON (on camera): Off screen, Gibson's part boy images, a rowdy reputation, due in large part to his drinking, was changing as his wife, Robyn, pressured him to stop. The Gibsons now had seven children who are kept out of the public eye.

GIBSON: I'm kind of a household Hitler, I suppose, if I can use that word. And, you know, it's our decision they stay away from it until they're old enough. And if they want to be part of it, yes, OK. But for now, they got to go to school.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Schooling that could take place anywhere Gibson was filming.

GROBEL: He traveled like an entourage with his family, you know, so he would take his kids and put them into different schools for half a year here, half a year there, instead of giving them private tutors.

ANDERSON (on camera) Throughout the entire interview with you, he was cussing like a sailor. Did that surprise you? Even like you -- even the "C" word when one of the video clips?

GROBEL: The C-word, that surprised me. He wasn't politically correct about -- in his language. And he said what he thought.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Gibson's choice of word has gotten him into trouble more than once. In 1991, he made comments about homosexuals to the Spanish newspaper "El Pais," which offended gay groups.

CAGLE: He made remarks which people considered to be home mow phobic. He resisted apologizing for a while, but at the end, sort of made up with the gay community.

ANDERSON: Gibson later said his quotes were misinterpreted. In the 1995 "Playboy" interview, Gibson again expressed views that raised eyebrows, including his dislike of feminists.

GROBEL: When he started talking about when men and women being equal and all this, so I asked about his wife. Does she think you're (INAUDIBLE)? And he goes, she likes that way.

ANDERSON (on camera): Of course.

GROBEL: Of course.

ANDERSON (voice-over): And Gibson expounded on conspiracy theories.

GROBEL: He said, my father told me that whenever a president, Lincoln, Reagan, Kennedy, whenever they tried to do something to do with the economy and the Federal Reserve, they got taken out. You know, he says, and I can't tell you any more about it because they may kill me when I talk about it.

I mean, where does that come from? I loved it.

ANDERSON: Grobel says Gibson also revealed a sillier side of his personality.

GROBEL: He's got this equipment from "Braveheart." He's got an axe. He got a sword. You know, I pick up the sword, he picks up the axe, we take a picture.

I got a sense that Mel had a great sense of humor, a zany sense of humor.

ANDERSON: Gibson was known for pulling pranks, such as putting a frozen rat in Julia Roberts's trailer when they made the movie, "Conspiracy Theory."


GIBSON: No, it was the same one, but several times.

ROBERTS: I kept hiding and he kept finding it and giving it back to me in different ways.

GIBSON: And then when it would come back, you know, I'd sort of change his expression and stuff, you know.

ANDERSON: Mel Gibson was a superstar. Still, some roles eluded him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The role that he wanted most was Amadeus. He wanted to play Mozart.


ANDERSON: And he didn't snag the lead role in Steven Spielberg's film about a man saving the lives of Jews during World War II.

GROBEL: In "Schindler's List" where he wanted to play Schindler. And he said he would have played him as a much slicker guy.

ANDERSON: Later, leading roles get tougher to come by after an audiotape of Mel goes viral.


GIBSON: I'm threatening I'll put you in a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rose garden. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED): You understand that? Because I'm capable of it. You understand that?




JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. The scene at Joplin, Missouri, today, is being described as horrific, after a tornado touched down just before 6:00 local time, causing damage to buildings, leveling homes and damaging the area hospital. There are many reports of casualties at the scene. We hope to have a live report and more details as they became available.

We also have reports of tornado damage in Minneapolis-St. Paul earlier this evening. Some picture to show you of the scene in north Minneapolis and the Fridley area where a tornado touched down, just taking out blocks of homes here and taking down many trees, thousands of people remain without power. One person was killed here and 22 people were injured.

The threat of tornadoes remains tonight across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and is stretching all the way down into Texas. We'll continue to monitor the situation and break in as necessary.

Now back to "CNN Presents."


ANDERSON (voice-over): In 2004, at the height of fame and fortune, Mel Gibson was ready to risk it all -- for a movie that would take Hollywood by surprise.

(MOVIE CLIP PLAYS) ANDERSON: "The Passion of the Christ," a film he would produce and direct about the final hours of the life of Jesus.

CAGLE: We knew he was a conservative catholic but we didn't realize the depth of his conviction, until we began to know a little more about the movie. This movie was the passion of Mel Gibson.

ANDERSON: The majority of the film was written in two nearly dead languages -- an idea Hollywood found laughable.

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN, HOLLYWOOD.COM: Well, on paper, can you imagine the pitch meeting for "The Passion of the Christ"?

ANDERSON: Paul Dergarabedian analyzes the box office for

(on camera): Why was it such a huge risk, possibly a career killer, for Mel Gibson?

DERGARABEDIAN: It was a film no major studio wanted to couch because it was so controversial. We didn't know how it was going to do at the box office, if people were going to turn away from it or embrace it. Mel Gibson put everything on the line for that movie.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Gibson explained why he was willing to risk his reputation and at least $30 million of his own money in an interview with the Catholic television network EWTN.

GIBSON: Like most of us, I mean, you get to a point in your life where you're pretty wounded by everything that goes on around you, by your own transgressions, by other people -- just life, it's kind of a scarring thing. So, I used the "The Passion" as a meditation of healing myself.

ANDERSON: Faith has always been Gibson's foundation. High in the hills near Malibu, he built his own Catholic Church, where mass is said in Latin.

CHRISTOPHER NOXON, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: It's long and very solemn and very serious and very heartfelt.

ANDERSON: Journalist Christopher Noxon attended a mass at Gibson's church in 2003 for a piece in "The New York Times" magazine.

(on camera): How would you describe his brand of Catholicism?

NOXON: Traditionalist Catholics, Mel included, believe all the sort of liberal reforms that happened in the late '60s were a mistake, were folly. So, they're trying to hold onto a version of Catholicism that existed long before the modern era. And that means women wear headdresses, that means there's no meat on Fridays, that means a very strict and literal interpretation of the Bible.

ANDERSON: Noxon also spent time with Mel's father, Hutton, a traditionalist Catholic, who's written scholarly books like "Is the Pope Catholic?" In it, Hutton argues the modern day mass is the shortest, surest route to hell.

NOXON: On the one hand, he seems like a very genial kind of grandfatherly type, and then his world view is as extreme as anyone I've ever met.

ANDERSON (on camera): He shared with you a number of conspiracy theories. What did he tell you?

NOXON: He believed that the World Trade Center bombings were a conspiracy, that there was no way the Holocaust could have happened the way they said it did, that there were more Jews living in Europe after the Holocaust than before. I never, for once, thought that Hutton's views were automatically and naturally shared by Mel.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Hutton did not respond to our request for an interview. What is clear, however, is Mel and his father share a deep conviction in their traditionalist Catholic faith.

FATHER WILLIAM FULCO, PRIEST: These are incredibly passionate men.

ANDERSON: Father William Fulco worked intimately with Gibson during the making of "The Passion of the Christ," translating the film's script into Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew.

FULCO: During the editing process, I would frequently meet in his office usually on a Friday afternoon. And I would say mass for him. And for him, it was a deeply spiritual experience. It was for me as well.

ANDERSON (on camera): Was he going through a spiritual crisis at the time?

FULCO: In the last, maybe, 20 years, at one of the artistic thing that Mel is struggling with is also a personal struggle, which is, does suffering have a redemptive value? And I think this is -- this theme is if all his recent movies, certainly in "Braveheart," where the man at the height of suffering screams, "Freedom."

GIBSON: Freedom!

FULCO: That's something he says about himself, he seeks freedom even in the middle of personal suffering and doubt.

ANDERSON: Do you think he personally identified in a way with Jesus and the crucifixion?

FULCO: Oh, I think Mel did very much identify with Jesus and the crucifixion.

I think it largely reflects his own experience of the early '90s, he was caught in an addiction, and he thought not so much as he reached up to God, he felt God reached down to him.

ANDERSON: As Father Fulco and Gibson worked on "The Passion of the Christ" controversy began to brew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This film is dangerous for Jews all over the world.

FULCO: But the criticism began to roll in and be magnified in the press before we even had the script finished.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Gibson's critics accused him of being anti- Semitic. Rabbi Marvin Hier saw the film and was troubled by Gibson's portrayal of the Jews.

RABBI MARVIN HIER: He portrays them in "The Passion of Christ" as blood-thirsty individuals who would do anything to make sure that Christ is crucified.

ANDERSON: Gibson defended himself in his interview with EWTN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you anti-Semitic?

GIBSON: Of course not. And, you know, if I was, I wouldn't be working this town with the people I've worked with for so many years, nor would they want to work with me. I mean, it's -- you know, it's ludicrous.

ANDERSON: Before the film was released, Gibson held screenings for hand-picked audiences, mostly consisting of Catholics and evangelical Christians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mel is great, very honest, and a committed believer in Christ.

ANDERSON: The strategy worked. "The Passion" smashed box office records, taking in $370 million in the U.S. alone, more than a half billion worldwide.

DERGARABEDIAN: It was a huge risk. It turned out, though, to be one of the biggest grossing R-rated movies of all time, and Mel Gibson looked like a genius because he became up with this film. They put it out at the right time. And it did huge numbers.

GIBSON: I'm pleased as punch.

ANDERSON: Following his passion may have paid off, but he would soon face new accusations of anti-Semitism.

CAGLE: He said something like, Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.




ANDERSON (voice-over): Mel Gibson was a man of many faces -- award- winning actor and director, respected family man, and devout Catholic. But on July 28th, 2006, Mel's bad boy side reemerged.

CAGLE: Mel Gibson was out drinking in Malibu, which was a surprise because the public thought that Mel had stopped drinking.

ANDERSON: After that booze-filled binge at the local hangout moon shadows, he got behind the wheel. Just after 2:00 a.m., Gibson was pulled over for speeding on the Pacific Coast Highway. After failing a breathalyzer test, he got belligerent, launching into an anti- Semitic tirade.

CAGLE: He said something like Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.

ANDERSON: acquired a copy of the handwritten arrest report detailing Mel's racist rant. It was deja vu for Gibson, fighting allegations of anti-Semitism again, as he did with "The Passion of the Christ."

(on camera): When the news of his arrest and his words became public, what was Hollywood's reaction?

DERGARABEDIAN: Well, Hollywood got really scared in general. And it went beyond just a DUI. If he had just kept his mouth shut, he would have been fine, because people get DUIs all the time.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Paul Dergarabedian is president of the box office division of Hollywood.

DERGARABEDIAN: But if you're Mel Gibson, anything you do is going to be put under a microscope and it really hurt his career.

ANDERSON: Gibson tried to do some damage control. On August 1st, 2006, the actor released a statement: "I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge. But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith."

Despite his second attempt at an apology, the damage to Mel's public image was done. Gibson declined our request for an interview.

CAGLE: So, I think a lot of people just thought Mel was crazy.

ANDERSON: And Gibson's career was in question.

DERGARABEDIAN: Everybody says controversy sells and all that. You know what? There is such a thing as a bad press when it's so mean- spirited, the things you are saying and doing, that it turns everybody off.

ANDERSON: As his public image was taking a beating, Gibson entered a court-ordered alcohol program. He paid a fine, got three years' probation and reached out to Jewish leaders to mend fences.

Gibson spoke out about the incident for the first time with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are those anti-Semitic words?

GIBSON: Oh, yes. Yes. Absolutely. It sounds horrible. And I'm ashamed that came out of my mouth. And I'm not that. That's not who I am, you know?

ANDERSON: Gibson tried to set the controversy aside while promoting his latest directorial venture, "Apocalypto," a violent film about the fall of the Mayan kingdom. But the conversation quickly moved from movie promotion to Gibson's recent DUI arrest.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Three's a lot of people, though, as you well know, who still don't believe you? Why should people believe you're generally sorry?

GIBSON: Beats me. And that's not my problem. I have to keep my side of the street clean and I'm doing it with the progress.

COOPER: So, it doesn't worry you what people think?

GIBSON: Of course. But, you know, there's nothing I can do about that. I mean, I move on. I've moved on. That was six months ago, and I have moved on.

ANDERSON: Whether self-imposed or pressured by Hollywood, Gibson disappeared from the limelight for the next few years.

(on camera): Did Hollywood distance themselves from Mel Gibson after that 2006 incident?

DERGARABEDIAN: Hollywood is all about second chances. If you leave things alone, you'd left people cool off, let time heal those wounds. But Mel doesn't let that happen. He likes to get back in there and rip the scab off.

ANDERSON: April 2009, a Hollywood shocker. Gibson's wife of 28 years, Robyn, filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce papers revealed that they had separated years earlier, in 2006, just after Gibson's notorious DUI arrest. Gibson's family man image was shattered.

Less than three weeks after the divorce announcement, he stepped out publicly for the first time with Russian-born singer Oksana Grigorieva.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Oksana denied she had anything to do with the divorce.

LARRY KING, HOST, CNN'S LARRY KING LIVE: Do you ever feel you caused the breakup?

OKSANA GRIGORIEVA, MEL GIBSON'S EX-GIRLFRIEND: He explained to me over and over again that it was not the reason that they separated, since 2006 for sure. And they were very unhappy prior to that.

ANDERSON: The couple soon announced they were expecting a baby. CAGLE: There's another dichotomy of Mel Gibson. He was this very strict Catholic with very, very strict views and yet he was having a child out of wedlock.

ANDERSON: Gibson also signed Oksana to his record label. His production company produced and financed her music videos.

GRIGORIEVA: He conceived, directed and produced four videos. They're like miniature dramatic movies.


GRIGORIEVA: I'm just incredibly grateful.

ROZEN: He was a man in love. I mean, there's no other reason he would have directed that video then. He was a man in love.


ANDERSON: But that passionate love affair would turn very ugly, very fast.

GRIGORIEVA: He hit me with a fist. He hit me twice very fast.




ANDERSON (voice-over): Russian-born singer Oksana Grigorieva said she and actor Mel Gibson started out very happy together.

GRIGORIEVA: We were extremely in love for three years.

ANDERSON: But the honeymoon wouldn't last. How dare you?

She says the relationship begun to unravel after the birth of their daughter Lucia on October 30th, 2009. Oksana claims that just a few months later, an argument behind closed doors got physical. Both Gibson and Oksana declined our request for an interview. But she did speak to CNN's Larry King.

KING: Give me the circumstance, Oksana.

GRIGORIEVA: Mel actually assaulted while I was holding the baby in my arms.

KING: Did he ever harm your daughter?

GRIGORIEVA: He hit me with a fist. He hit me twice very fast. The blow went across my mouth, broke the teeth -- the veneers and then at the end of that blow, he -- because I was holding her, I was holding and protecting her head, he grazed her chin. And it cut her a little bit. And there was blood.

And with that blow, we fell down. I just flew backwards on to the bed holding Lucia in my arms.

ANDERSON: In a sworn declaration obtained by TMZ, Gibson has acknowledged slapping, not hitting Oksana, in order, he says, to stop her from shaking their daughter.

In July 2010, explosive details about their rocky relationship began leaking out. Radar Online posted taped phone conversations portraying the enraged actor threatening Oksana.


GIBSON: I'll burn the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) down, but (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me first! How dare you! How (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dare you.


DAVID PEREL, RADAR ONLINE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & MANAGING EDITOR: It's scary. It's shocking. It's something that if somebody told you about it, you probably wouldn't believe it until you heard it about your own ears.

ANDERSON: Radar Online executive vice president and managing editor, David Perel, played the recordings for me.

PEREL: I knew these tapes were going to be explosive, that America was going to listen to these tapes and be riveted by them and disgusted by them.


GIBSON: What? What? Are you threatening me?

GRIGORIEVA: Nothing, nothing. I'm not the one to threaten.

GIBSON: I'm threatening. I'll put you in a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rose garden, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You understand that? Because I'm capable of it. You understand that?


PEREL: The language that Mel uses on the tapes is extremely profane. Worse than that, racist.


GIBSON: You look like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on heat and if you get raped by a pack of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), it'll be your fault. All right? Because you provoked it.


ANDERSON: In an interview with, Gibson pressed regret over the tapes. "I've never treated anyone badly or in a discriminatory way based on their gender, race, religion or sexuality, period. I don't blame some people for thinking that, though, from the garbage they heard on those leaked tapes, which have been edited. It's one terribly awful moment in time, said to one person, in the span of one day and doesn't represent what I truly believe or how I've treated people my entire life."

(on camera): So how were these tapes leaked?

PEREL: Well, everybody wants to know how Radar got the tapes, but we're not telling. It was hard investigative work and everyone wants to know if Oksana was paid. Oksana was not paid.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Oksana denies releasing the tapes, but she did tell CNN's Larry King why she made them.

GRIGORIEVA: He called me 30 times. I only recorded eight conversations. He called every five, 10 minutes, nonstop, from 8:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

KING: You were taping him in the thought you'd be killed and you wanted the world to hear this?

GRIGORIEVA: I wanted my mother to be able to prove that if I'm dead, that this is who did it.

ANDERSON: In one tape, Oksana brings up Gibson's alleged assault.


GRIGORIEVA: You were hitting a woman with a child in her hands. You. What kind of man is that? Hitting a woman when she's holding a child in her hands? Breaking her teeth twice in the face, what kind of man is that?

GIBSON: Oh, you're all angry now.

GRIGORIEVA: You're going to get to -- you know what?


GRIGORIEVA: You're going to answer, one day, boy. You're going to answer.


JIM MORET, LEGAL ANALYST, INSIDE EDITION: It's not simply the tapes that bolsters Oksana's claim. She also went to a dentist following an alleged incident. That dentist took photographs and made certain notations indicating he saw what could amount to injuries.

ANDERSON: For his part, Gibson claims Oksana demanded money in exchange for withholding recordings of the conversations -- an accusation she denies.

GRIGORIEVA: No money involved. It's all about my daughter.

You know, I never threatened him. In fact, I walked on $15 million of what he was offering me to wash his hands on domestic violence, sign this agreement. ANDERSON (on camera): The separated couple battled it out here at Los Angeles superior court. Grigorieva alleged domestic abuse, while Gibson alleged extortion. Both sides filed restraining orders and state officials launched investigations into their claims.

(voice-over): Meanwhile, the two are also locked in a fierce child custody battle over Lucia.

MORET: You have a family law issue, a family court issue -- who gets custody, who pays child support, who sees the child when.

ANDERSON: Jim Moret is covering the court proceedings for "Inside Edition."

MORET: And then you have a separate issue, a criminal issue, of an extortion claim and a separate issue of domestic violence.

ANDERSON: Shortly after the tapes went viral, Gibson was dropped from his talent agency William Morris Endeavor, and what was likely to be billed as a comeback cameo proved yet another setback when Gibson was cut from the cast of "The Hangover 2."

DERGARABEDIAN: The cast got together and said, "We don't want to work with him."\

ANDERSON: Paul Dergarabedian is a leading movie industry analyst.

(on camera): What will it take for him to make a comeback and be the Mel Gibson of old that everybody loved and adored?

DERGARABEDIAN: I don't think he can ever be the Mel Gibson of old, but I think the directing would be a big thing for him. I mean, this is a guy -- obviously, a terrific filmmaker. Behind the scenes I think he could resurrect his career as a great director.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A magnet for controversy, Gibson has burned a lot of bridges, but old friends like Jodie Foster are sticking by his side.

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: He has this incredible combination of being able to be witty and light and loveable in some ways, but has a darker side, obviously.

ANDERSON: Foster gave Gibson a leading role and directed him in her most recent film "The Beaver."

GIBSON: I'm sick.

VOICE: Do you want to get better?

GIBSON: Who are you?

VOICE: I'm the beaver. I'm here to save your damn life.

ANDERSON: Gibson plays a drowning and depressed family man who resorts to communicating through a beaver hand puppet. FOSTER: I knew that he would understood the drama of the film and understand Walter's struggle, you know, and understand it from a really deep and authentic place.

ANDERSON: The indie film was scheduled for a 2010 release, but after Gibson's head-line grabbing controversy, it was delayed until this spring. The question now: will Gibson help or hurt the film?

FOSTER: It was definitely hard to find the right time to bring this movie out. It's been pushed back a few times. I hope people will see his performance and understand -- understand him a little better.

ANDERSON: Gibson's personal future is also up in the air. In March, he pled no contest to a battery charge stemming from the altercation with Oksana. As part of the agreement, Gibson would avoid jail time.

In a statement to CNN, the actor's attorney, Blair Berk said, "Mel's priority throughout all of this has been that the best interest of his young daughter Lucia and the rest of his children be put first in any decisions made. It is with only that in mind that he asked me to approach the district attorney with a proposal that would bring all of this to an immediate end."

Meanwhile, Gibson's child custody case with Oksana continues.

(on camera): Mel Gibson, long ago, cemented his superstar status in America.

But today, the actor and director finds himself with more drama off- screen than on. No longer considered an A-lister, he hasn't worked on a high-profile film since 2006.

But will Gibson be remembered as a Hollywood legend or as a man destroyed by his personal demons?

DERGARABEDIAN: Be a good guy for a while. Don't get into trouble. Don't say anything controversial and maybe you can get your career back.

GIBSON: Action!